OXFORD — They say there’s a first time for everything and that rang true for Meaghan Marshall of Paris on Friday night in the 4×4 Arena at the Oxford County Fair.
It was her first time stripping a car down to its bare bones, her first time repeatedly smashing that car into other vehicles and her first time entering and winning a demolition derby.
At the drivers meeting before the Ladies Demo got underway, Kevin Bishop, an Oxford County Fair board member and chairman of the demolition derby, warned the drivers of the rules: no head-on hits and no hitting driver’s-side doors.
“Ladies, you’re going to put on a good show,” Bishop said to the six female drivers eager to hop in their vehicles and participate in the destruction that awaited them.
It was also Darcy Letourneau’s first time at a demolition derby, though she was a spectator. The Mechanic Falls resident was excited and nervous. “I just hope nobody gets hurt,” she said.
And thankfully for everyone involved, she got her wish.
As the competitors drove into the arena, Bishop introduced the drivers.
The crowd went wild when Marshall, driving the number 25 red Ford Taurus station wagon donated by her uncle, Tim Rine, smashed into number 30 and then immediately hit number 00. Desiree Witham of Oxford said if they were taking bets on drivers, she would put her money on Marshall.
“She’s got a freakin’ beast of a vehicle,” Witham said.
Witham let out an enthusiastic “Oh!” as Marshall squished and disabled the second vehicle of the derby.
“We’re down to the final four,” Bishop told the standing-room-only crowd. As he made the announcement, all four vehicles smashed into each other, causing a temporary pile-up.
By this time, Marshall’s plastic bumper was flapping behind her. Her husband, Steve, whose nickname “Steve-o” is painted on the side of her car, yelled advice from crowd: “Keep it going forward!”
Two more vehicles were done and the remaining two, Marshall and Melissa Richmond driving number 65, a blue-gray Volvo, circled each other. Richmond rushed up, jumped her car onto Marshall’s, and metal squeaked as Richmond pushed the Ford forward.
Marshall countered by smashing her back end into Richmond’s vehicle.
“Put another hit on her Meaghan. There you go,” Bishop said, his voice echoing through the arena.
“What do you say Melissa? Is it going to start?” he asked. It didn’t.
Again, the crowd began counting down from 10 and Marshall was declared the winner of the Ladies Demo. She clambered out of the beat-up Ford and removed her orange four-wheeling helmet.
“You just won $500,” Bishop told her.
“Woo!” Marshall shouted.
Beside her husband stood her two sons, 10-year-old Linwood and 7-year-old Jacob.
“Look, my mom gets a huge trophy! … We worked on that all this time,” Linwood said, motioning to the now-idle Ford. “I love my mom. I can’t believe she won tonight.”
Jacob admitted to his mom after the event that he was scared the Volvo was going to win and even shed a few tears over it. But he knows why she won.
“She has the big car and she is a very good driver,” he said.
On the edge of the pits afterward, Richmond, who took second place and $200, congratulated Marshall.
“You’re pretty awesome yourself,” Marshall responded.
The winner called the demolition derby “borderline out of control,” as she caught her breath. Marshall said she didn’t have any real strategy, even if she backed her car into everyone else’s almost the entire time.
“My front end was turning one way. I didn’t have any choice,” she said. “I had to put my car into position so I could hit the other cars.”
Marshall thought a couple of times her car was going to die, but she wouldn’t let it happen.
“All I knew was just keep putting it in forward and reverse, forward and reverse. And don’t hit the driver’s door,” she said.
In the end, Marshall’s forward and reverse strategy persevered.
“I just want to thank my husband, Steve Marshall, for being the amazing man he is and getting the car ready. And my uncle,” she said.